The 23rd-ranked Ashland University men's basketball team won a tight GLIAC contest on Thursday (Feb. 28) night at Kates Gymnasium, knocking off Wayne State, 70-63, in the regular season finale.
Prior to the game, the Eagles recognized seven members of the team during their Senior Night celebration.
The Eagles (23-5, 15-5 GLIAC), who had already clinched the No. 2 seed in the GLIAC Tournament, will play No. 7 seed Grand Valley State next Tuesday (March 5) in the quarterfinal at Kates Gymnasium. Tip-off is set for 7:30 p.m.
Thursday's game featured 14 lead changes and 14 tie scores as neither team held more than a three-point lead from Wayne State leading, 6-2, four minutes into the game until the Eagles took a 56-51 lead after a 3-pointer by junior guard Rodrick Caldwell with 7:30 remaining in the game.
That triple was the turning point as Ashland never let its lead slip under three the rest of the way. AU followed it by getting two straight stops before redshirt-sophomore guard Aaron Thompson converted a three-point play to make it a 59-51 game.
"It was just one timeout, Coach Wood was just really hyping us up and the guys responded," said redshirt-senior guard Ben Haraway. "We played good defense and were aggressive."
While the Eagles struggled making free throws down the stretch, they got enough stops on the defensive end to close out the victory. The Warriors (8-17, 7-13 GLIAC) made just four field goals in the last eight-plus minutes of the game as Ashland held them to just 33 percent (11-for-33) shooting in the second half.
"We started pushing the basketball after stops," said head coach John Ellenwood. "We got some key stops and guys played in their stance."
The game was played at a quicker pace and both teams struggled shooting the ball from outside. Each team hit just four 3-pointers in the game. Caldwell and sophomore forward Derek Koch hit two each for Ashland.
The Eagles still used a good mix of shooting, post play and dribble penetration to get enough good looks at the basket.
The Warriors had their hands full with Thompson and junior center Drew Noble, who each finished with double-doubles. Thompson had 19 points and 13 rebounds while Noble added 18 points, 13 rebounds and three blocks.
"We know playing Wayne State, they crash the boards hard, and we focused on that during the week," said Thompson. "We knew that was a focus coming in and we had to get it done."
Caldwell added 17 points, four rebounds and two steals and Koch was the fourth Eagle in double figures with 10 points, four rebounds, three assists and three blocks.
Wayne State's Javon Henderson came into the game averaging 19 points in his last 14 games, but the Eagles limited him to just four points on 2-for-13 shooting.
The Eagles held a 45-40 edge on the glass, blocked eight shots and committed just seven turnovers.
Karim Murray led the Warriors with 18 points and seven rebounds.